Portuguese designer Catarina Mota made her presence felt when her hackerspace team entered a Brooklyn, NY competition with a toy piano made from Jell-O. The designer has now topped that outrageous design with a paper box Piano that comes with some awesome LED lights and a 12-key touch piano/synth that is fitted inside a fabric and paper box. Dubbed the Piano Box, the kick-ass creation allows people to make their own paper synthesizers by downloading some custom codes for free and use the design to make their own kind of music.
The Piano Box features paper-covered copper tape that serves as capacitive keys, twin speakers, Tone and CapSense libraries and an Arduino Mega board that lets the paper creation run all these awesome features. The innovative music player was developed by Mota in collaboration with her other NYC Resistor team members Astrida Valigorsky, Mimi Hui, Will Byrd and Ranjit Bhatnagar, and allows users to experiment with any kind of conductive materials including fruits and jell-o. The team has previously demoed the prowess of their polyphonic JelTone piano and the codes for the Piano Box were written by Mota in collaboration with Will Byrd who taught his students about using Arduino to create polyphonic instruments at Indiana University.
In theory, almost any conductive material should work well in the construction of the Piano Box though Mota and her team made each of the touch sensors/keys using paper-topped copper tape. Mapped to LED lights, each sensor was then mated to the micro controller (Arduino Mega) board and connected to the speaker. To allow as many as five tones to be played simultaneously, five of the six available hardware timers are used by the Piano Box to make the Arduino-backed Tone library output a specific frequency square wave that is generated as a predefined tone that the speakers output. Even though the petite amp produce sufficient sound via its own little speaker, Mota added the two speaker on the side “for symmetry” and is currently working on making the paper box more resonant to improve the overall sound quality.
Mota says that, at least in theory, modders should be able to make their own Piano Boxes with more keys since the current version her team has created is simply a single-octave toy piano. The build requires creators to invest a little money into purchasing the Arduino Mega micro controller board though the rest of the stuff is relatively cheap (including a pair of speakers, a small amplifier, drinking straws, paper LEDs, resistors and copper tape) and can be easily scavenged from flea markets, home tool boxes and local hardware stores.